Can You Still Get Pregnant With an IUD

Find Out Just How Effective an IUD Is at Preventing Pregnancy

Intrauterine Devices (IUDs) are an increasingly popular form of birth control that offer a number of key advantages. Top among them is that IUDs are more than 99 percent effective at preventing pregnancy, which makes them the most reliable among all widely used, non-surgical forms of contraception. Two types of IUD are available—hormonal and copper—and both work in a similar way, essentially making it impossible for sperm to meet the egg. In addition to their success at preventing conception, IUDs eliminate the element of user-error, as women who have them don't need to do a thing to ensure they keep working. In short, if you have an IUD, you can relax and be fully confident that you will not get pregnant.

How Do IUDs Prevent Pregnancy?

Holding an IUD birth control device in hand

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IUDs are T-shaped devices that are positioned inside the uterus. When in place, hormonal IUDs regularly release hormones that thicken the cervical mucus so that it traps sperm, rather than allowing it to travel toward the egg. In some women, the hormones in these IUDs also prevent ovulation. Copper IUDs do not release any hormones, but copper's scientific properties cause an inflammation in the uterus that creates a hostile environment for sperm.

An additional factor that aids an IUD's effectivity at preventing pregnancy is the elimination of user-error. Unlike the contraceptive pill, which you have to remember to take, and condoms, which you must remember to buy, have on hand and wear properly, IUDs are "idiot-proof." Once an IUD is inserted, a woman does not need to do anything else to make sure it keeps working. An IUD works day-in, day-out until you opt to have it removed.

How Long Do IUDs Prevent Pregnancy?

A copper IUD is fully effective at preventing pregnancy from the moment it's inserted, and it can last up to 12 years. Hormonal IUDs work for three to six years, depending on the brand. Doctors generally recommend that you use a backup method of birth control for the first few days of insertion, or up to a week afterwards. After this time, IUDs of both types remain equally effective at preventing pregnancy for the entire length of time that they are in place. Furthermore, medications, including antibiotics, do not interfere with an IUD's effectiveness. If you have an IUD and decide to try to get pregnant, simply have the IUD removed and expect your fertility to return immediately.

Potential Pregnancy-Related Risks With IUDs

Holding an IUD birth control device in hand

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Pregnancy in women with IUDs is very rare, which is why their makers claim they offer more than 99-percent effectiveness at preventing pregnancy rather than 100 percent. If you have an IUD and believe you might be pregnant, call your doctor immediately. In the very unlikely situation that you are pregnant with an IUD in place, you will need to get it removed as soon as possible.

Very occasionally, an IUD can slip out of place and even fall out. Most of these cases occur during the first three months after insertion of the IUD. Your doctor will advise you at the time of its placement about checking that your IUD remains properly in place. If you're worried that it has slipped, call your doctor, and be aware that improper IUD positioning increases your chance of getting pregnant.

It's important to note that IUDs do not protect against sexually transmitted diseases. If you can't be absolutely certain that your sexual partner is free of STDs, always use a barrier form of birth control, e.g., condoms or female condoms, in addition to an IUD.

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